Monday, October 10, 2011

Tim Tebow and QBR: Frauds of a Feather

First read this. I’ll cut and paste the important bits:

Tim Tebow (83.2 Total QBR) Makes Case To Be Broncos’ Starter

Tim Tebow came in for Kyle Orton at halftime and almost led the Broncos back from a double-digit deficit against the Chargers. Both quarterbacks were on the field for six drives. Orton led the Broncos to just three points while he was on the field (the Broncos' only first-half TD came on a defensive return) and threw an interception, while Tebow led the Broncos to two touchdowns and had no turnovers.

While Tebow's rally fell just short, he finished the game with an excellent Total QBR of 83.2, while Orton's ineptitude resulted in a paltry score of 5.1.

This is so very very stupid.

If you want to be successful, you need to either put yourself in situations where picking up a first down is likely, or pick up first downs. You need to have a high completion percentage and you need to pick up yards with those completions. ESPN’s new QBR thinks that Tim Tebow had quite the day on Sunday. 83.2 is a high number. (The highest of the year, equally ridiculous, is Alex Smith's 98.2 against the Bucs on Sunday.) It is higher than Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. So what did Tim Tebow do to “earn” this ranking?

Well, he threw 10 passes, completing 4 (40%!), and ran 6 times. And what did those look like?

Tebow’s 1st run, 2nd quarter – gain of 2 yards on first down, putting Kyle Orton in a bad situation (which he converted, by the way)

Tebow would then take over in the 2nd half.

Tebow’s 1st pass, 3rd and 8 – complete to Decker for no gain. One of Tebow’s 4 completions is a huge negative play in that it results in a punt. Checking down on 3rd and 8 when you’re down 23-10 is just not a good idea.

Tebow’s 2nd and 3rd passes, on 2nd and 7 and 3rd and 7 respectively – incomplete. Tebow’s second series is another 3-and-out resulting in a punt.

Those were Tebow’s only plays of the 3rd quarter. Nick Novak would hit a 51 yard field goal on the ensuing drive putting the Broncos in a 16 point hole.

Tebow’s 4th pass – 1st and 10, incomplete.

There are now 13 minutes left in the game. Tebow has been a disaster and the Broncos are in a 2-score hole (if they’re lucky on 2-point attempts). You’re probably thinking that this is where Tebow turns it around. Well…

Tebow’s 2nd run, 2nd and 9, for 5 yards. This brought up 3rd and 4, which is at least manageable, however…

Tebow’s 5th pass – 3rd and 4, incomplete.

Yup, another punt. The Broncos gave it back to the Chargers, down 16 with 11 minutes to go. They would give up one first down to the Chargers and get the ball back with under 9 minutes to play. A nice punt return (15 yards) and a 28-yard run by Willis McGahee would take the Broncos all the way to the SD 23 yard line. We then have…

Tebow’s 3rd, 4th, and 5th runs, for 11 yards, no gain, and 12 yards and a TD.

Almost all of Tebow’s value comes on this sequence, and it’s not like it’s not valuable, it’s just that special teams and McGahee put him in a good spot, and he didn’t do anything that McGahee (who also took in the 2-pointer) didn’t do on this drive.

On the next drive Tebow was again the recipient of excellent field position after a Philip Rivers fumble. Denver recovered at the SD 41. At this point we have:

Tebow’s 6th run, 1st and 10, 8 yards.

Followed up a few plays later by,

Tebow’s 6th pass, 1st and 10 at the SD 28, I’ll quote the NFL gamebook directly:

“(3:30) (Shotgun) 15-T.Tebow pass short right to 27-K.Moreno for 28 yards, TOUCHDOWN.”

This was a screen pass to a RB. It’s the kind of pass that basically anyone can throw. It’s a nice play, but it doesn’t tell you as much about Tebow as Aaron Rodgers 70 yard TD to James Jones tells you about him (for instance).

So the Broncos were down by 2 at which point we get a HUGELY negative play that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet or, apparently, in QBR, that being:

Tim Tebow’s Two Point Conversion Attempt – Incomplete, fails.

Yes, with an opportunity to tie the game Tebow failed to complete a pass to Brandon Lloyd, another huge negative play.

Because of this failure the Broncos found themselves down 2 with under 3:30 to play without the ball. Because of this failure the Broncos at this point had almost no chance to win. And in fact the Chargers would run off almost all of the time and kick a FG to go up by 5, leaving the Broncos only 24 seconds.

At this point we get Tebow’s final 4 passes. With only 24 seconds left and down by 5, a FG does no good, so SD dropped into prevent. If you want to know where Tebow got all of his passing yards,

Tebow’s 7th pass – 1st and 10 from the Denver 20, Complete to Lloyd for 20 yards.

Tebow’s 8th pass – 1st and 10 from the Denver 40, Complete to Fells for 31 yards.

Tebow’s 9th pass – spiked.

Tebow’s 10th pass – Incomplete to Willis. Game over.

In short, to approve of this performance by Tebow you have to ignore the fact that he had three 3-and-outs when the game was still reasonably in reach, that he put his team in bad positions several times over, that most of his passing yardage came in garbage time when San Diego was simply trying to prevent a long TD, that he failed on a 2-point conversion which was probably the single-largest WPA play of the day, and that he benefitted from great field position provided by his defense, RB, and special teams.

To claim that his game was better than Aaron Rodgers' which featured a come-from-behind victory that solidly put Atlanta away, a higher completion percentage, more TDs, more yards, and success in ways that surely increased his team’s chances of winning more than Tebow's, is just silly.

QBR looks worse every week. Only ESPN knows the exact formula and absent the ability to provide context for some of their more unorthodox rankings, it looks to be completely useless. Overrating Tim Tebow is such an ESPN thing to do, one wonders if this metric was created to adhere towards certain narratives than to provide any sort of meaningful analysis.